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Georgia O’Keeffe, “Radiator Building, Night — New York” (1927), which is part of the Fisk University’s Collection. (via lookingaround.blogs.time.com)

The future of Fisk University’s priceless art collection donated years ago by artist Georgia O’Keeffe, and known as The Stieglitz Collection, may be decided at a trial set to begin tomorrow after five years of legal wrangling.

According to The Tennessean:

The university, citing financial troubles, wants to sell half of its stake in 101 priceless works of art, including two paintings by O’Keeffe and works by Picasso and Renoir. The university had been offered $30 million for the 50 percent stake in the collection by an Arkansas museum, but opposition, first from an O’Keeffe museum in New Mexico and then from Tennessee’s attorney general, prevented the sale.

Officials from Fisk University did not respond Friday to a request for comment on the upcoming trial. Nor did officials with Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Ark., which wants to buy the 50 percent stake in the collection.

For some of the backstory to the  Fisk University/O’Keeffe controversy, read Richard Lacayo’s 2008 post, “Georgia on My Mind.” For an 2009 update on the University’s case visit USA Today, which has this great insight into why Fisk is so desperate to unload the art:

Fisk attorney John Branham said earlier this year the latest appraisal of the collection indicated a value of about $75 million, which represents about half of Fisk’s total assets.

How did Fisk get this collection? Again from USA Today:

Ninety-seven of the works were part of a collection that belonged to O’Keeffe’s late husband, the photographer and art promoter Alfred Stieglitz. O’Keeffe donated those works to the university in 1949 while executing Stieglitz’s will.

The four other works in the Alfred Stieglitz Collection, including O’Keeffe’s “Radiator Building…” painting, were given to the museum later.

So, what makes The Steiglitz collection so valuable? According to this post by C. Michael Norton:

The Stieglitz Collection consists of 101 art works: five pieces of African tribal art, nineteen Stieglitz photographs, two paintings by O’Keeffe, prints by Cezanne and Renoir, and a number of paintings by Marsden Hartley, Arthur Dove, Charles DeMuth, and John Marin.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.